Establishing a healthy relationship with alcohol means something different for everyone. Some people make the choice to change their drinking habits over time without seeking treatment. Others may need additional support in order to drink in moderation or stop drinking entirely. All paths are valid. If you’re wondering what route is best for you, you can connect with experts to help you set goals and create a plan.
Ultimately, you may decide sobriety is a better long-term goal than moderation. However, learning how to moderate drinking can be a productive first step. While taking steps alone may be effective for some people trying to change their relationship with alcohol, guided alcohol therapy from an evidence-based alcohol treatment program is a great option for those seeking additional support and accountability. Either way you go, here are six helpful tips to transform the role alcohol plays in your life.
1. Recognize and Adjust Drinking Patterns
One of the first tips for how to drink in moderation is taking the time to be mindful of your drinking patterns. As you take a critical look at the patterns of how much you drink and when you drink, see if there is any correlation with what else is going on in your life. Ask yourself:
- Am I drinking because I’m lonely, depressed, or in a certain mental space?
- Does drinking help me feel better? In what ways?
- Does my alcohol consumption fluctuate based on the amount of stress in my life?
- Is it easy for me to drink excessively in the company of others?
Asking yourself these types of questions can help get to the root of how you feel before, during, and after you drink. For example, if you’re in a routine of drinking a glass of red wine to unwind, does limiting it to a single drink rather than three or four achieve the same goal? On the other hand, do you find yourself drinking more when around friends or colleagues out of habit or peer pressure?
By being conscious of your drinking habits, you can find what helps you drink responsibly and practice pacing yourself. Moderating your drinking isn’t something that occurs overnight, but can be rewarding as you begin to change your relationship with alcohol. Rather than turning to alcohol as a way to cope or socialize, changing your drinking behavior can open up new opportunities to promote self-care and well-being without the need to drink.
2. Track and Reduce Consumption
Part of recognizing recurring drinking behaviors is tracking consumption. According to the CDC, moderate alcohol consumption is equivalent to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. A standard drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a cocktail that contains 5 percent alcohol. This means you may be consuming more alcohol than you think. By following this marker of moderation, you can mentally take note and pace yourself when alcohol is involved.
If you’re an occasional or social drinker, it can be easy to participate in binge drinking and feel like it doesn’t have an effect on your health or how well you function. When, in reality, the health risks of binge drinking are present regardless of how often it occurs. A similar mindset shift is necessary when on vacation or around the holidays when it’s easy to relinquish controlled drinking and consume more than one or two drinks.
Think about how drinking less can give you more out of life. For starters, it’ll help you stay present in the moment and in tune with others without the fogginess brought on by alcohol. That said, when surrounded by others who are drinking excessively, it can be challenging to moderate alcohol intake without support and preparation, which brings us to the third tip: how to say no.
3. Practice Saying No or Offering an Alternative
Peer pressure isn’t reserved solely for young adult behavior. It can pop up at any time, at any age, and it doesn’t feel any easier to avoid even if you’ve experienced it before. You may set out with the best intentions of limiting your alcohol intake when getting together with friends or joining co-workers for a happy hour, but it can be challenging to hold firm to those guidelines when in the moment. When putting moderation into practice, it often involves planning how to politely but firmly decline the inevitable drinks that’ll be passed your way.
A quick “no, thank you” can be an effective way to set a boundary between yourself and those who may urge you to drink. In other situations, constant peer pressure to drink can be a cue to exit a situation early, and a sign that you should reevaluate who you’re hanging out with, or where you’re getting together. A “no” can also be communicated as an “instead of.” Instead of hanging out at a bar, why not take up another type of social activity? It allows you to define what you value from relationships with others, while you’re adjusting your relationship with alcohol. If a connection is what you’re after, choose an environment where your mood or personality isn’t altered by heavy drinking. It gives you a chance to embrace and show your true authentic self.
4. Set Goals and Turn to the Support of Others
Another tip to consider when exploring how to drink in moderation is setting attainable goals. These can range from limiting how much you drink per day or week to designating a window of time when you refrain from drinking altogether, such as No Alcohol November or Dry January. Whatever you’re determined to tackle, setting goals can help us reflect on past behaviors, and be intentional about what we want to change.
During the times when you’re alcohol-free, does it change how you feel and where you place value in your life? Do you find you’re able to think more clearly, focus better, and maintain your energy? Build upon these positive changes as you continue to cut down on alcohol, and don’t feel discouraged if you face challenges along the way. Changing your relationship with alcohol is often a non-linear journey, and setbacks are a normal part of progress.
Leaning on Peer and Professional Support
You don’t need to have a ‘rock bottom’ to seek treatment and community. Connecting with medical professionals and a peer support network can give you the tools to reach your goals, and set you up for long-term success.
Monument’s Community is available 24/7, and is completely anonymous. Share your challenges and questions with other people who are navigating sobriety or moderation. Monument also provides therapist-moderated alcohol support groups on a range of topics, including navigating moderation. With Monument, you can feel empowered to make progress on your own terms, while knowing you have a holistic support network cheering you on.
Moderation in the time of Coronavirus
5. Find and Maximize What Brings You Joy
Oftentimes, alcohol can be used to cope with negative feelings, and create a false sense of calmness, relief, and even joy. Finding alternative ways to achieve those feelings is a crucial part of changing your relationship with alcohol.
Not sure where to start? The following are activities that can create moments of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment without alcohol:
- Daily exercise
- Spending time in nature
- A new hobby
Think about how you want to show up for yourself, what actions can help get you there, and the ways alcohol prohibits your progress.
As you introduce healthy activities and coping mechanisms into your life, you might find that alcohol becomes less important to you. As you change your drinking habits, it’s important to check in with yourself and your needs. You may decide that abstaining from alcohol is the best course of action for you, or you may decide that being able to drink in moderation is a realistic long-term goal. Whatever the case, we’re here to support you in a way that makes you feel empowered and confident.
6. Invest in a Tailored Solution
Whether you’re on the path to sobriety or drinking in moderation, it’s a rewarding result of self-reflection and the beginning of a new and healthy relationship with alcohol.
By limiting your alcohol intake you’re lowering your risk of certain health conditions, including cardiovascular and liver disease. It also helps to regulate your blood pressure and improve your cognitive functioning. You’ll find increased clarity, calmness, and balance on a regular basis. In short, drinking less can give you more out of life as you promote and sustain your well-being. And you don’t have to do it alone.
Monument provides evidence-based support that includes professional counseling, a peer community, and physician-prescribed medication. This holistic treatment model is designed to help you reach your goals in an environment that’s welcoming and supportive. It’s available online and on your own time.
Take the First Step In the Journey
By checking in on your relationship with alcohol, you can transform the role it plays in your life. The path isn’t always a linear one, but it’s definitely rewarding. Changing your relationship with alcohol is an act of self-care, and you should be proud to embark on that journey, or continue along your path.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.